Book Review: Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty

Posted May 6, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review:  Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal Fantasy
Published by Disney Hyperion on July 3, 2017
Pages: 358
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Serafina and the Black Cloak, Serafina and the Twisted Staff, Willa of the Wood

Third in the Serafina fantasy-paranormal series for middle-grade readers and revolving around the sweet but fierce Serafina, a shapeshifting girl of twelve, living on the Biltmore Estate of 1900 in North Carolina.

My Take

It’s a classic of good versus evil that starts out so scarily. Buried alive? The Black Cloak back and working? Rowena conjuring? Plus the unexpected regrets. Redemption.

“You can accept things the way they are. Or you can make them better.”

I do understand why Beatty was so annoying with all the cryptic double talk, and it definitely created tension and drama. It sure kept me racing through the pages wanting to know what was going on! Then there’s Waysa’s confession about his rescue. Oy. Now, I’m normally the first one to say “off with his head”, but Waysa was so compelling in his reasons why he had to save her. Still ticked me off, though.

Beatty uses a third person protagonist point of view from Serafina’s perspective, so everything we learn is when Serafina is present. It presents one so skeptical and one so trusting with this battle changing Serafina, as it changes Braeden. One change I enjoyed is her working alongside her pa as they construct a new design.

We also learn quite a bit about Rowena’s background, one that makes such sense of her life.

“If you don’t like the way you are, you make yourself different.”

I love the concept of Biltmore. Essentially it’s like a commune that is self-productive, providing a refuge for people who want to live close to the earth. It creates a high contrast between the good of Biltmore and the evil of Uriah.

Then there’s that bit at the end…terrifying in its implications, which was nicely offset by Serafina’s realization that “all she wanted was to be part of something … not just to hear, but to be heard … not just to feel, but to be felt by other people”. People with whom we can share the world.

The Story

Everyone misses Serafina, but Braeden and Pa miss her most of all. The worst though is that Serafina cannot connect to them when she returns.

How can she stop the coming storms, the destruction of Biltmore, the danger to her friends, if no one can see her?

The Characters

Serafina has finally learned to shift, becoming a black panther like her father. Waysa is a friend of Serafina’s and her mother’s; he’s also a catamount, another shapeshifter. Pa is in charge of the mechanicals on the estate and has an amazing talent.

The Biltmore Estate was…
…built by George Vanderbilt and is his home with his pregnant wife, Edith, and their orphan twelve-year-old nephew (and Serafina’s best friend), Braeden, who has a gift for healing and speaking with animals, but is now greatly damaged. Gidean is his faithful black Doberman, as Cedric, a Saint Bernard, is his uncle’s. Cornelius Vanderbilt is George’s grandfather.

Essie Walker is the maid with whom Serafina became friends. John is a footman. Mr Fetlan is the master rosarian. Mr Olmsted had been the estate’s landscape architect. Mr McNamee is the estate superintendent.

The angel’s glade is…
…a place of eternal spring watched over by the statue of an angel and smack dab in the middle of a cemetery.

The Black Cloak was an evil that, it seems, cannot be destroyed (Serafina and the Black Cloak, 1). But, it also saw Serafina’s acceptance by the Vanderbilts.

Uriah is a powerful conjurer, evil, who had created the Black Cloak and now wants revenge for his losses. Rowena is his treacherous fourteen-year-old daughter-apprentice (Serafina and the Twisted Staff, 2), a sorceress who has evolved to necromancer.

The Cover and Title

The cover is gorgeous with a deeply colorful background of purple mountains, a lightly blue stormy sky with orange and gray clouds above, the intense rain shooting down at an angle. Coming forward, in front of the mountains, is the forest blending from a brilliant green down to the deepest green. In front of the forest is the rocks over which Serafina is running with the most obvious rocks in an amethyst purple. An info blurb is at the very top in white while the author’s name is at the very bottom also in white. The fun part is the vintage paper used for the scherenschnitte of Serafina in profile racing across the rocks, her long curly hair floating out behind her. The current is part of it, undulating shapes of parchment beneath Serafina’s feet, a metaphor for the flooding rivers as well as a background for the title in an embossed dark, dark purple.

The title is all about Serafina and the Splintered Heart, for Serafina is broken, splintered.

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